30 Mar

When I was growing up I went to a lot of churches who were out to make me cry. I went to churches who existed to evoke emotion – to make their congregants feel something.

In a culture where we are constantly in touch with our feelings, sometimes it’s difficult to actually feel. Emotionally driven books, movies, TV shows, Facebook and blog posts, songs, and pictures bombard us. People respond to emotion, so those who want to be heard appeal to our feelings – and while it works for a time, eventually we become desensitized.

We’ve felt  so much – and our hearts need a break. Years of exposure to emotional appeals leave us needing time away from feelings – a repose from the ups and downs. So we allow callouses to form on our hearts. We allow them to become hard.

I think this is why I’ve seen so many churches that wanted the attention of my feelings. It’s good to feel. It’s good to have catharsis – to purge our emotions. It’s good to be excited. It’s good to have a nice long cry. Churches know this – and they also know how to evoke feelings. They know how to stir up our hearts and get us excited, or how to make us feel as guilty as Hitler, or how to reduce half of the congregation to tears.

And while those things aren’t bad, per se, I’ve seen a lot of churches who made evoking emotion their main goal. If people weren’t running or dancing or crying or expressing some extreme emotion by the end of the service, then the church had failed.

The problem is that when we focus on creating a feeling, we’re not focusing on God.

This Holy Week I’ve found myself feeling. I have felt joy at the grace of God, I have felt uncontrollable sadness over the pain of Christ, and I have felt overwhelmed by the love and goodness of the God I serve. But no one set out to make me feel those things. Rather, in meditating on the Lord and the things He has done, I found those feelings flowing as a natural result.

And you know what? If I had felt nothing it would have been okay – because God doesn’t command us to have a feeling. He blesses us with feelings, but He only commands that we obey Him.

In her book Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, Mother Angelica says, “Spiritual dryness is a gift from God, because it removes the soul from the emotional level and puts prayer on the level of the will, where I am a child of God who does the things of God because I decide to do so, not because I am depending on emotions outside of me.”

These past few months I have been a mess of feelings. (S is worried I have a hormonal imbalance.) I have spent Holy Week weeping for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I have wept for the pain of the Blessed Mother, and I have wept for the sins of humanity. And I am absolutely overwhelmed with excitement for when I enter the Church tonight.

But I know that in a little while these feelings will fade. The dailiness of my spiritual life will take over. But that’s okay. Feelings are not the goal. Jesus is the goal, and feelings may or may not be a result.


19 Responses to “Feelings”

  1. Jennwith2ns March 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Absolutely right on. Brilliant.

    “In a culture where we are constantly in touch with our feelings, sometimes it’s difficult to actually feel.” No kidding.

    Blessed Resurrection Sunday to you.

    • elliejaneohara March 30, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      Thanks Jenn! Hope you have a wonderful Sunday as well 🙂

      • Jennwith2ns March 30, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

        Thank you!

      • Jennwith2ns April 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

        Can I reblog this tomorrow for my Tuesday Reblog?

      • elliejaneohara April 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

        Absolutely! Thank you for thinking of my post!

      • Jennwith2ns April 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

        Of course!

  2. SR March 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm #


    Have been on my mind and heart all day today. I am so happy and excited for you! Tonight is the night! Know I will be thinking of you in Mass and the wonderful life you are going to have, living it as a Catholic. From your post, I think you already are. God Bless you this night, my dearest friend. Love you and am there with you in spirit and heart. SR

    • elliejaneohara March 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      I know! I’m so, so excited! I already have my dress on and my hair fixed and it’s still four hours away…thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers!

  3. geloruma April 1, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Hi Ellie,
    can’t wait to read your subsequent posts… thanks for the quote from Mthr. ANgelica, sums things up really well.
    God bless for your special day!

    • elliejaneohara April 1, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Thank you! I love, love, love Mother Angelica – what a blessed woman!

  4. Faith April 1, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    I -feel- the same thing regarding a lot of churches. I’ve found in my own spiritual journey that I often -feel- that I’m doing something wrong if I am not overwhelmed with emotion while in church, or praying, or reading the Bible. I’ve had times where I’m so concerned over my lack of -feeling- that I wonder if I’m even saved! But what you say is true: Jesus is the goal, not feelings!

    I connect this whole “feeling” thing to movies like “The Passion of the Christ.” My mom said she watched it on Saturday evening, and that it really makes you “feel something.” How sad is it that so many people have to watch such a film to even slightly “feel” something about the suffering and death of Christ? We are so overstimulated to feel emotion that we have to witness things in great hyperbole to even sense an ounce of feeling!

    I made a point to not let my emotions be manipulated this Holy Week. And I found that, though I wasn’t super emotional during Mass Thursday-Saturday, and I didn’t cry (though I wanted to want to cry) that Sunday morning I had this unspeakable joy that I couldn’t contain. Jesus was the goal, and Jesus gave me that joy.

    Anyway, welcome home to the Church 🙂
    I can’t wait till next Easter for my own homecoming!

    • elliejaneohara April 1, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you got to experience Holy Week prior to coming into the Church. I hadn’t and it was kind of overwhelming to have both the newness of Holy Week Masses/Services AND becoming part of the Church.

      • Faith April 1, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

        Wow, I bet. I took my boyfriend with me to Maundy Thursday (his first EVER Mass) and I can’t imagine how overwhelming it must have been to be in that formal of a Mass for the first time.

  5. Jennwith2ns April 2, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Reblogged this on That's a Jenn Story and commented:
    The Tuesday Reblog
    Introducing elliejaneohara, of Catholic Lite. I’m not journeying into the Catholic church like she is, but I totally resonated with this post. Which might be ironic–I dunno. See for yourself.

  6. JT April 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    I have been thinking about your post for a couple of hours now and I guess I agree with you in part and kind of disagree with you in part. Let me elaborate… Churches and for that matter most mass organized events certainly have a prescribed agenda, I am just not sure that evoking emotion is the primary motivation. For instance if you go to a political rally, well there certainly is a lot of hyperbole and perhaps people are getting excited about their “candidate” and they want people to be excited about the candidate. Why they want people excited though, is that people who are excited and feel good about their candidate are more likely to share that enthusiasm with others and to vote themselves. It wasn’t the emotion that drove them I think but rather the results.

    Churches may be guilty at times of evoking emotion but maybe it is because there is passion attached to what they are singing or preaching about. Also, often times I think the Holy Spirit can stir conviction or other emotions in or out of church, however if you are seeking a greater understanding of God in your private time with Him and are overcome with emotion the experience is much different than when you are surrounded by others of “like precious faith” and those emotions if/when exposed often leave you “feeling” far more vulnerable.

    Emotion is something the scriptures warn us about and something that I think most of us struggle with. If we tell someone we love them but feel nothing it seems disingenuous. However if we shove someone out of the way of an oncoming car and take the hit ourselves, society will say we’re a hero instead of saying we loved. The act of love needs no emotion only commitment and motivation…. Both Things Jesus patterned for us. Blessings and thank you for making me think!

    • elliejaneohara April 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      “Why they want people excited though, is that people who are excited and feel good about their candidate are more likely to share that enthusiasm with others and to vote themselves. It wasn’t the emotion that drove them I think but rather the results.”

      That’s a really good point and actually a bit of a better way of expressing what I was meaning haha.

      • JT April 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

        Oh I don’t know if it was better per se… just a different perspective 🙂

  7. pishnguyen April 2, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    This is such a beautiful post, and it resonated with me on many levels. This year was my first year to experience Holy Week, and I wasn’t ready for the depth of feeling and emotion it evoked in me. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride — a wonderful, wonderful roller coaster ride, but still …

    Like you, I entered the Church at our parish’s Easter Vigil. I am thrilled, a little bit overwhelmed, and mentally and emotionally exhausted. And looking forward to settling into “the dailiness of my spiritual life”. (What a beautiful way of putting it!)

    Anyhow, many congratulations to you. And many wishes for continued grace and mercy in your life. Thank you for sharing your experience and for this beautiful post. 🙂

    • elliejaneohara April 2, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

      Thank you for your lovely comment! Congratulations to you as well!

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